A Leader’s Holiday Book List: Five Diversity and Inclusion Reads

Just in time for the holidays, as many of us reflect on 2019 and look ahead to 2020, we share this curated list of five classics offering perspectives from all angles of inclusion.

In Five Must Read Books for Today’s Inclusive Leader, inclusion and diversity expert James Wright says, “America's changing demographics are here to stay. … It is not only important for leaders to embody the cultural competencies needed to lead diverse teams, but it is also a requirement to do so inclusively.”

Wright’s list highlights a set of compelling reads for every nonprofit leader:

  1. In Diversity, Inc.: The Failed Promise of a Billion-Dollar Business, Pamela Newkirk examines the vast gap between the rhetoric of inclusivity and real achievements, asking tough questions about what has been effective and why organizations have fallen far short of their goals despite decades of handwringing, costly initiatives, and uncomfortable conversations.
  2. Improperly deciphering communications with people we don’t know is analyzed in Malcolm Gladwell’s Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don't Know. According to Wright, Gladwell contends that “because we don't know how to talk to strangers, we are inviting conflict and misunderstanding in ways that have a profound effect on our lives and our world.”
  3. In examining racism as a practice not restricted to what some call “bad people,” antiracist educator and renowned speaker Robin DiAngelo takes a look at how “white fragility” develops and protects racial inequality, and what can be done to engage more constructively. In White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard For White People To Talk About Racism, DiAngelo discusses “the defensive moves that white people make when challenged racially,” characterized, Wright says, by emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, as well as argumentation and silence, that “function to reinstate white racial equilibrium and prevent any meaningful cross-racial dialogue.”
  4. The Memo: What Women of Color Need to Know to Secure a Seat at the Table offers career advice specifically for women of color, rather than lumping together women across races and overlooking unique barriers each may face. Author Minda Harts “provides a no-BS look at the odds stacked against women of color in professional settings, from the wage gap to biases and micro-aggressions, with actionable takeaways,” says Wright. “With wit and candor, Harts begins by acknowledging the ‘ugly truths’ that keep women of color from getting the proverbial seat at the table in corporate America: micro-aggressions, systemic racism, white privilege, etc… and provides a roadmap to help women of color and their allies make real change to the system… [including] network-building, office politics, money, and negotiation.”
  5. Taking on the challenging discussion of racism in society, Wright suggests reading Ijeoma Oluo’s So You Want to Talk About Race, in which the author “guides readers of all races through subjects ranging from intersectionality and affirmative action to ‘model minorities’ in an attempt to make the seemingly impossible possible: honest conversations about race and racism, and how they infect almost every aspect of American life.”